Daily Archives: August 4, 2009

Lean Is About People – Not Engineering

Do you ever feel tempted to just engineer Lean into your team?  Want to tell your team to implement one piece flow, pull systems, cell layouts, and other tools?

The above is an easy temptation.  What is missing from a desire to engineer is the understanding that Lean is about people.

Peter Block says  in “Flawless Consulting” that most problems can not be fixed by engineering alone and are usually people problems.  I love his example of how an architect can easily design and build a house, but it is more difficult to work with the family to understand their needs and wants.  He points out that organizations have more complexities than a single family house.

If you are in leadership and you want to engineer your team, I challenge your commitment to the respect for people principle.  You are not equipping your team to use their minds to solve problems if you tell them how to design their work.   You are even more guilty if you try to design their work without ever spending time in gemba.

Trust your team to solve outcome problems (reduce wait time, remove inventory, ect) not how-to problems (implement flow, create pull, ect).  Your people will gain a deeper understanding of Lean by utilizing its principles to solve outcome problems. 

If you liked this post, then try:

 My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Problem Solving, Respect For People